Earthly Governments in God’s Master Plan
These are the readings for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
The Lord of History has established governments to carry out God’s will. He has demonstrated that there is no conflict between our debt to government and our debt to him. Christians, of course, recognize that they owe much more than taxes to God. They owe him thankful and believing hearts and an eternity of praise.
First Lesson – Isaiah 45:1-7
What important mission did God accomplish using the pagan ruler Cyrus of Persia?
God’s chosen people were hopelessly exiled in Babylon. In his providence, the Lord fashioned a deliverance they neither deserved nor dreamed possible. He anointed and empowered Cyrus of Persia to conquer their oppressors and set them free. How could Cyrus pull this off? It was the almighty God of Israel who rendered Cyrus’ enemies helpless and removed all obstructions so that no one could withstand him.
Summarize what this text indicates about God’s role in the history of the world.
Our Jehovah God is the Lord of History. He controls and guides all the events and affairs of his created world in order to carry out his inscrutable plans for the good of his Church.
Supplemental First Lesson – Daniel 1:3-21
How do these young men serve as models for living as citizens of God’s kingdom and an earthly kingdom?
These young men found themselves working for a godless government that would challenge their faith. They resolved not to defile themselves by abandoning the command of God for his Old Testament people. Rather than being punished, God made sure that they were vindicated. It is a reminder that while we live as citizens of an earthly kingdom, when the laws of that kingdom conflict with God’s Word, we must obey God rather than men.
Second Lesson – I Thessalonians 1:1-5a
According to Paul, which three Christian virtues were earmarks of the spiritual condition of the brethren at Thessalonica (v.3)?
Paul fondly recalled and alluded to their faith, which freely manifested itself in good works, their love, which sought out opportunities to serve, and their hope, which never grew weary in times of affliction.
What reasons did Paul give for his certainty that God had chosen the Thessalonian Christians for salvation?
Paul preached the gospel to them, not in vain, empty phrases, and not with false, misleading doctrine. No, the glorious gospel that Paul proclaimed was preached with the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, the Word itself exerting its strength on the hearts of its listeners. Additionally, Paul emphasizes his deep, personal conviction that the message he proclaimed was indeed divine truth.
Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 13:1-7
What does Paul claim for the government?
Divine institution and establishment.
What different things do we owe the government as God’s representatives?
God wants us to pay our taxes, but he wants more than that. He calls on us to respect the government and honor it, too. These are words every American should read heading into an election cycle. While the people serving in office may be less than divine, understand that the government is God’s gift to you to keep you safe and let you live in peace. Thank God for it by submitting yourself to the governing authorities in a godly way.
Gospel – Matthew 22: 15-21
Explain the two sides of the Pharisee’s trick question in verse 17. If a “No” response? If a “Yes” response?
Jesus enemies expected, most likely, that he would speak against the paying of the tax, in which case they would have reason to denounce him before the Roman governor as a rebel. If, on the other hand, he favored the paying of this most unpopular tax, he would likely have created a stir among the Jewish people and turned them against him.
Many in today’s society say, “We owe obedience to no one but self.” How does the Christian respond?
Above all else, we owe God honor and obedience and treat his Word with reverence and respect. In the temporal earthly realm, which concerns things like money, possessions, body, and life, we respectfully obey the government of the country in which we live, for it has been ordained and instituted by God. Put another way: God wants the heart; the body and goods are under the government, which rules in his stead. Finally, the 4th Commandment commands honor, obedience, and respect for all those whom God has placed in positions of authority.